Countryside Wanderings

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out of doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

Category: Walking

Unfamiliar sights, unfamiliar surroundings

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

For now, any thoughts that I may have about exploring other countries have been put on hold. Instead, I am rekindling my enthusiasm for British hill country wandering by catching up with unread issues of TGO magazine. My overseas attentions have caused a few of these to pile up.

The results are plain so far with a few walks around Cheshire, Derbyshire, Shropshire and Yorkshire having happened. Completion of the Sandstone Trail was among these as was revisiting Calderdale and the Peak District. This is a habit that I should like to continue.

None of this means that I am about to cease heading overseas and one of those excursions is the subject of this piece. It became a possibility following a life change at the start of 2015 and began a series of Scandinavian explorations that have continued since then.

New Possibilities

A sad life event in January 2015 was to be a life changer for me and outstanding work resulting from this still continues as I write these words. The new circumstances bring additional responsibilities that are set to persist for a few years yet. It also opened up other avenues for I now could consider overseas hiking trips and they were not realisable before then.

Strangely, the event in question also elicited a sense of release now that the sense of added burden over two years had ceased. It was this that allow my thoughts to turn to overseas ventures during February 2015. The possibility that came to mind was an extensive one: the Alps. After some months, my research resulted in an article elsewhere on this website.

The aforementioned compilation took quite a while and brought home to me how I had forgotten how unnoticed the build up of my knowledge of British hill country had been. It was the effort expended in doing this all at once for other parts that drew it to my attention. The same could be said for my subsequent collations of car-free explorations of American wilderness as well as the delights of the wilder parts of New York state.

Even before the prospect of self-powered explorations of other countries was realisable I still compiled some articles on here that were intended to be useful for planning visits to Scandinavia. It was a business trip to Sweden that got these going and the resulting collection also features Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland. Magazine inserts and other inspirations caused me to build up what is there.

All of these give me something from which to draw inspiration for various outdoor escapades. For the first of the lot, Switzerland was in contention until I saw predicted temperatures of 30° C for places like Geneva so that thought was postponed until September. Somehow, Iceland then came to mind and fitted in with a habit of going north for a summer break that has sent me to Scotland so many times.

Heading for Alien Shores

Not being someone that is guided by fashions of the day, my eventual choice of destination is an interesting one. After all, Iceland is one of those fashionable if expensive countries to visit at the moment. The feel of the place also is so very different from that with which I am familiar in Britain and Ireland. First, volcanism is ever present and ensures bare countryside in some parts. Then, there is the latitude so you find icefields and glaciers too. The mix is as exotic as it is alien and that is before the winter appearances of the aurora borealis even comes to mind. Lastly, you also get long hours of daylight during the summer and these kept me out of doors well into the evening while I was there.

One thing is more familiar though: the vagaries of maritime weather. This is where I came up better than I might have expected; going north does not guarantee fine weather all that often as my Scottish incursions have taught me over the years. A tentative drizzle around Landmannalaugar was as wet as it got during my stay and sunshine abounded much of the rest of the time of my stay.

Things looked cloudy enough when I looked down from my flight as it reached the end of its journey from Manchester to Keflavik. Those initial glimpses of Iceland revealed just how rugged, barren and empty the landscape of its south-western corner actually is. Seeing signs of human habitation and endeavour in this very different setting was a contrast that will not leave me easily. Trees were going to be a rarer sight here than the comparatively more lush corners of Britain and Ireland.

Getting Bearings and Other Necessities

It had been a while since I arrived somewhere where I had such scant knowledge of its layout so one of my first tasks was to find my way around Reykjavik after arriving from Keflavik by coach. This was mixed with other needs like getting something to eat, buying maps and checking into my hotel. All took place as the sun played hide and seek among the clouds over my head. The weather had brightened since my morning arrival in the country.

Somehow, I had come to Iceland without a full set of maps. While I had seen maps stocked in the U.K., the scale typically was 1:100000 and I wanted to see if I could do better. In the event, what I found in various shops (including tourist information centres) was the same and even applied to IÐNU’s own shop too. There were some exceptions such as the 1:75000 IÐNU Sérkort map of Suðvesterland but I was to find that a GPS receiver would have been more useful for hill walking in Iceland than elsewhere and that thought would have applied even with default Garmin maps.

While my quest for maps was not as successful as I might have liked, my traipse around Reykjavik itself unearthed far more treasures. Along the city’s coastline, I found an art installation called the Sun Voyager, Harpa concert hall and Höfði House (where there was a major summit between then Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980’s that formed part of a process paving the way for the end of the Cold War).

Across the sea, there was Esja and the hills that lay about it acting as a lure that never caught their quarry. Looking at the aforementioned 1:75000 IÐNU Sérkort map of Suðvesterland reveals a variety of paths and tracks criss-crossing the area so that makes it a good place to visit on another visit. Sometimes, you collect possibilities as well as seeing sights and gathering experiences.

Traipsing hither and thither took me to such varying sights as Reykajavikurtjörn, Hallgrímskirkja and Hljómskálagarður. All inspired photos as and when the sun allowed. Even with spells of sunshine, I still got to other needs like checking in at my hotel to offload my luggage and enjoying an evening meal in between map hunting. My arrival there might have been early but my room was ready so I could be accommodated at that stage. After a little organisation, I was on my way again and my base was to see little of me over the course of my stay aside from sleeping and breakfast.

A First Incursion into Icelandic Countryside

What suffered from staying out of doors so much and until 23:00 was planning and the late bedtime caused a little oversleeping too. Neither of these were helped by dopey confusion regarding the time caused by the Fitbit on my wrist not being set up to synchronise time zone with my phone. It was a setting that I had yet to find before it could be fixed.

While the morning disarray ultimately meant that I had to choose between Þórsmörk and Landmannalaugar for the hill walking outing of my trip, the alternative choice of a tour that took in sights like Þingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss was more than enough compensation. It helped too that this happened on the sunniest day of my stay in Iceland.

Armannsfell, Þingvellir, Iceland

The outing that I was to enjoy began from Reykjavik’s BSÍ coach station, the one where I arrived the day before. Though it was part of Iceland on your Own (IOYO) bus network, the journey was accompanied by a recorded commentary. Even so, we were to have lengthy stops too and the first of these was at Þingvellir where those who dared could cross the rift between the European and North American tectonic plates to meet again with the coach on the other side. Though even this sounded a tad risky, I still fancied a spot of further exploration so I took up the option and was rewarded with ample views. This was not a solitary stroll though for this is something of a honeypot. Even so, there remained quieter corners where you could photograph pleasing parts of the landscape without intrusion.

In the end, I found myself awaiting the coach and not the other way around and that is the better way to have things. A day spent around Þingvellir would not have been so bad but there were other sights that I would not have seen. Our next calling point was Haukadalur where there were geysers to be seen. On the way there, we travelled along an unmetalled stretch of road that was the first of my trip to Iceland. There would be more to come the next day.

The one that gave its name to all these gushers is less active these days so everyone awaits the action of Strokkur, much newer than the celebrated Geysir that only gets activated by earthquakes nowadays. Apparently, the underground tubes conveying the superheated water under pressure get clogged over time. The water temperatures are such that getting too close earns more than a scalding so it is best to keep a safe distance and it is surreal to see streams of steaming water running along the ground.

Another result of the spectacle apart for a slight sulphurous stench is that life cannot get a foothold so bare ground is what you get. Seeking aspects that looked more green, I continued up the slopes of Laugarfjall and that provided the required visual relief. There were wider views of the surroundings too as I pottered about before descending again. We only had so much time and I got to feeling that I had my fill anyway.

Gullfoss, Iceland

Gullfoss was our next port of call and was where the coach turned to retrace its journey back to Reykjavik. It is here where there were connections with coaches going north to Akureyri, an all day excursion through the Icelandic highlands that could be done faster with an internal flight. Going slower along the ground might reveal more though.

It may not be Iceland’s biggest but the sight of Gullfoss was to amaze me and it is little that it draws so many. Such is the amount of water cascading down precipices that it wets both visitors and their cameras. My own camera should have been wiped more often than I did but the photos remain memorable even if some post-production was needed on some of them. Dettifoss in the north of the island is supposed to be even more impressive than this and it is difficult to see that could be.

When the coach began its return journey, there was a different ambience to that on the outbound journey. It was more chilled and it was no waste to pass previously experienced sights again. Spending some more time around Þingvellir granted differing sights because the sun had moved during the course of the day. That made photos of Þingvallavatn, a very large lake, all the more successful and it was a quieter time to visit too.

After a pleasing outing, there was a chance for more strolling around Reykjavik in the evening sunshine. It was a good way to finish a day of seeing a variety of landscapes that many see as part of a Golden Circle tour. My exposure to Icelandic countryside had been boosted but a walk around nearby Esja and its neighbours would have compensated if I missed the opportunity that gave me so much. A further hill country incursion remained outstanding and I was not about to muddle that.

A First Immersion in the Icelandic Highlands

It was difficult to pick between Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk but I somehow plumped for the former and there was an early morning start because the outbound coach that I needed left at 08:00. The day ahead was going to be duller than the one preceding it but my course was set, probably by a guidebook that I consulted.

The journey ahead was a long one as it stopped at Selfoss and Hella before leaving metalled roads for the gravelled F-numbered roads for which it would need both its four wheel drive and ground clearance, especially at river crossings. It was this section stage of the journey that both took most of the time and took us through the most isolated countryside with next to no human habitation to be found. There were some good reasons for this because we were passing near Hekla, one of the island’s volcanoes. The cloudy skies made the empty landscape about us appear even more desolate.

When it came, Landmannalaugar’s wildness was striking. The presence of a mountain hut, ablution facilities and a campsite is about all there is to the place. It really felt like a seasonal settlement solely there to serve outdoors lovers and the sense of isolation was unmistakeable. In some ways, the place reminded me of photos of Everest Base Camp in the Himalaya even if they are very different locations in many ways.

There were patches of grass and a natural geothermal pool but this was no domesticated holiday camp and the weather added its own share of rawness under overcast skies. Having limited time, I started on my walk with one of the 1:100000 scaled maps that I had with me. A 1:25000 scaled one might have been available from the mountain hut but I had some experimenting to do.

My walk took me back along the only road into Landmannalaugar towards Nåmshraun but I found a track leading uphill onto my first summit of the day before that point. That top was both unnamed and unpeopled while I was there but it got me up to 710 metres above sea level so views of my the surrounding hill country opened out before me. What was missing was sunshine so I must admit to feeling somewhat deprived, even after the delights of preceding days. Other photos had spoiled me and raised expectations that little bit too high.

After some height loss, the walk to the top of Suðurnámur began in earnest. My surroundings grew ever wilder as I continued and finding progress on such the small scale map that I had was difficult. A chat with a fellow walker who had the larger scale map show the wisdom in having that item but I still had to trust the path as far as a reassuring signpost. Hikes often are better off not being completed in short spaces of time and this was one of those. It did not help that the time for my planned return to Reykjavik loomed larger in my mind and that never speeds up the passage of time.

It was around Vondugiljaaurur that I decided on a later departure even if the only one in my head was at 20:30 and meant an after midnight arrival in Reykjavik when I was flying home from the city later that morning. The first thing not to be rushed was the descent to the valley floor because of its steepness and the seemingly fragile surface on which I was threading. Then, the sun broke through the cloud cover to light up what surrounded me on the valley floor and there was no way that I could rush away from that. Lastly, there was no sign of the human habitations from which I had started walking. They were not that far way but it felt as if I was in another world. It is amazing what a craggy upland pavement can do to obscure such things.

Nordurbarmur, Landmannalaugar, Iceland

Even so, the distances were not as large as I had grown to accept. Arriving at Landmannalaugar’s facilities just ten minutes earlier may have kept me running to my planned timetable but I was to seeing my coach leaving as I neared the end of my hike. With more time available, another walk may have been in order but one felt enough for me that day. As things stood, I now had time to survey and photograph sights like Norðurnámur and the sun emerged again to do its magic as I pottered about. There were spells of dampness too and the chill in the air became apparent after I stopped being so active.

When I found that another company offered an earlier return journey, I was more than tempted to use that. After all, there is no cafe in Landmannalaugar where one might linger and depending on a later bus with a flight next day did not seem prudent. Leaving at 18:00, it was good to be on the way back to civilisation again. My first taste of Iceland’s wild country certainly felt more of adventure than I expected and there is much here that could draw me back again.

Unfinished Business

A first visit never gets you under the skin of a place and that is what I found in Iceland nearly as much as Austria and Norway. My time there was short too so I naturally needed to pick and choose between different options that were in my head. Other destinations have drawn me to them since then so a return to Iceland remains outstanding.

Seeing Landmannalaugar with more sunshine remains one possibility and it helps that I have a better for how wild it feels. My first encounter needed the longer day that I spent there and that lesson will not be overlooked if there is a repeat visit. Other spots like Esja near Reyjavik or Þórsmörk deserve exploration too and Akureyri in the north of the island looks promising. A cross country coach trip is another idea so a longer stay might do no harm on any future visit. Who knows what delights such a thing could bring? For now, I have photos from the last trip as a reminder of the rewards of such a venture.

Travel Arrangements

Return journey between Manchester and Keflavik with EasyJet. Scheduled coach journeys between Keflavik and Reykjavik. Coach tour with Reykjavik Excursions that included visits to Þingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss. Coach travel from Reykjavik to Landmannalaugar with Reykjavik Excursions and return journey with Trex.

Ambles within sight of The Cloud

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

There are many walks that could fall under this ambiguous title since so much of Cheshire lies within the sight of this hill. It is one of those landmarks like Shutlingsloe or Croker Hill (distinguished by its radio broadcasting station) that overlook so many of my strolls and cycles near where I now call home. These not only extend towards the Cheshire Plain but the landmark can be identified from among the hills that lie between Macclesfield and Buxton so those following the Gritstone Trail will see the hill long before or long after crossing its summit. There was a temptation to add Leek to the preceding list of towns but that may be going too far.

National Trust sign, The Cloud, Bosley, Cheshire

Calling a hill a “cloud” looks incongruous to modern eyes until you realise that it is a usage dating from old English as much as calling a valley a “hope” much like what happens in north Derbyshire and south Yorkshire. The latter has been know to trap the unaware like a new vicar in Oxenhope as described by Simon Armitage in his book “Walking Home”. Sometimes, place names can be a last redoubt for older meanings so it is best to keep that in mind as we saunter through countryside, even or especially when following the route of the Pennine Way.

Bear installation, Astbury Mere Country Park, Congleton, Cheshire, England

Not at all far from The Cloud is another town that I have yet to mention: Congleton. It may not sound like a starting or an ending point for walks but it has been both for me over the years and some of these have been described on here already. One took me to Leek via Biddulph and Rudyard Lake and Congleton was my destination on a walk along part of the Gritstone Trail that started from Langley.

The Cloud, Bosley, Cheshire, England

The Macclesfield Canal passes by Congleton too and very handily is next to the town’s train station. Sometimes, life can way us down so much that we can fail to engage in activities that offer momentary relief. Anything that makes it easier to get out for a walk has to be helpful. Simpler often is better so what can be easier than trotting along a canal towpath? Certainly, that helped to get me walking between Macclesfield and Congleton in the dying months of 2012 and the first one of 2013 while there was quite a lot on my mind. This was the start of emotion consuming events that have carried on over the last few years even though there have been episodes of release too and it was during one of these that I walked along the canal in bright spring sunshine in April 2015.

The lure was the prospect of getting pleasing views of The Cloud, particularly on the section between Crossley Hall Farm and Bosley Locks. For a time, I was relieved of the cares of life as I passed numerous familiar sights. It is difficult to anything very new about those and there is one section of the canal that I have yet to walk that goes south from Congleton until I am lead again onto previously trodden reaches on the way to Kidsgrove where it connects with the Trent & Mersey Canal. That opens the prospect of a cycle along its wide towpath that may lead me from one train station to another if I went far enough.

The main linchpin of this piece is another walk, one that I did at the start of November 2015. However, it was not what I had in mind for that day. Only for a late train, my preference was for a walk commencing from Disley. What is somewhat lost to memory is the route that I wanted to follow. In March of this year, I did follow the Gritstone Trail as far as Kerridge before following our paths on the rest of the way home so it could have been that. There was another option that was just as likely: a circular stroll around Disley and Lyme Park.

Astbury Mere, Congleton, Cheshire England

Instead of sticking with the disruption of a delayed train journey, I caught a bus to Congleton. My next port of call was Astbury Mere and I followed part of Route 573 of the National Cycle Network to get to it. It might have been the spontaneity of my choice of destination that caused me to overlook a section the Dane Valley Way in favour of a discovery from an evening cycle during the summer of 2015. Encounters late on those days probably inspired me to consider a midday visit when light would be more plentiful for photography.

Astbury Mere Country Park is surrounded by residential areas despite its name so folk were to be found pottering about on that mild November day. Everyone still had plenty of space to themselves though and I enjoyed my walk around the mere before leaving it to get to Astbury.

St. Mary's Church, Astbury, Cheshire. England

Once I made my way along some streets, a public footpath called Stony Lane then took me most of the way to Astbury. The village has been a calling point on numerous cycles but this was the first time that I arrived there on foot. With a curious church and lines of cottages leading to it from the A34, it is a photogenic spot so I lingered a while before retracing some of my steps while walking to the Macclesfield Canal.

Trig Point on the Cloud, Bosley, Cheshire, England

Following the canal towpath, I crossed through Congleton before dropping into Dane-in-Shaw Pasture where I found a public footpath leading to Brookhouse Lane. Then, I took to following the Gritstone Trail for the rest of the way to the top of The Cloud. Though unseasonably warm, it was getting late in the day by this point and the sense of the whole exercise might be questioned by some if they knew what I was doing. Nevertheless, I stuck with my plan and climbed through woodland as I did so. It did not take long to come out of the tree cover to take in amble views over the Cheshire Plain and whatever else I could see in the late afternoon light.

It was sensible not to delay either so I started on my descent of Cloud Side to reach a lane that would start me on my return to Congleton. That meant going around the hill again but the views made it worth doing and I was to stick to lanes anyway given the now fading light. Further lanes that I was to use included Tunstall Road, Pedley Lane and Middle Lane as I passed Key Green to come under the streetlights of Congleton before too long. Freed from any chance of getting benighted, my main concern was getting to where I needed to be to catch my bus back to Macclesfield after a very satisfying day.

Various wanderings around Hare Hill

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Avenue leading into Hare Hill, Prestbury, Cheshire, England

Casting my mind back to a time when I often walked home through the fields from my workplace, which then was out in the countryside, at the end of a working day reminds me that I often passed between the National Trust properties of Alderley Edge (the sandstone escarpment, not the village of the same name that once might have been called Chorley) and of Hare Hill. Even so, I hardly stepped inside of its boundaries until a visit made by bicycle in October 2011. Until then, the closest to doing so had been an after work incursion during an extended cycle home and I have passed the place on many a commute to work too.

Until I found the relevant entry on here, I would not have realised that I undertook there trots around both Alderley Edge and Hare Hill in twelve months. The first of these was spoilt by a nip from a terrier in a leg that resulted in a trip to the local A&E department for sake of safety. For some reason, the original account played down the story of my phoning the NHS helpline and the need to spend several hours awaiting the consultation that resulted in a tetanus booster injection and the prescription of a course of antibiotics as a precaution. Nothing more came of the altercation though it did nothing to reduce my wariness of unleashed dogs.

All that happened on the first Sunday of May 2014 and it was to take until September of the same year before I embarked on hike from the village of Alderley Edge back home in an effort to exorcise memories of the previous encounter. That was not nearly as sunny as I would have liked and there was a reprise the following April when I found both sunshine and signs warning of the need to control dogs. Since then, the affect concessionary path now is out of use during the winter when Hare Hill is not open to the public.

Mushroom spotted on September 2014

Unlike the ill-fated first circular stroll, the September 2014 was a linear affair. It also replaced other aborted plans for what I had in mind for Wales needed to be postponed. Instead, I headed to Alderley Edge in the middle of that Saturday and spent the afternoon walking from there back home.

Starting from Alderley Edge village, I went up Macclesfield Road before making using of a tempting public footpath and wend my way towards the National Trust land where the escarpment was to be found after a road crossing. If my memory serves me correctly, that took me along an indirect course for some reason lost to me unless it was my own curiosity that was the cause. From the escarpment, the route taken was more focussed albeit with twists and turns as it took me through Dickens Wood, Waterfall Wood, Clock House Wood, Danielhill Wood and Alder Wood. It comes as surprise to see every single piece of woodland named on the Ordnance Survey 1:25000 map of the area. After the last of these, it was time to cross fields to get to Hare Hill before continuing to the road along its entrance drive. After that, it was onto Prestbury by a route that I can neither recall or retrace but photos help with working out my route from Prestbury home and that followed the course the River Bollin as far as Riverside Park. From there, home was just a short stroll away.

Danielhill Wood, Alderley Edge, Cheshire, England

April 2015 was to see its share of sunshine and the combination of a sunny Saturday and the need for a stroll was enough motivation for a partial reprise of its autumn predecessor. Another benefit of the pleasant weather is that I have more photos from the day so reconstructing the full route with most of its deviations becomes an easier exercise. One of those was seen in the route that I took from Alderley Edge village to the escarpment after which it has been called. That saw me cross a field with some ponds in its centre before going through what I think is Windmill Wood. After that, it was a repeat of the route followed the previous time.

Avenue leading into Hare Hill in April, Prestbury, Cheshire, England

From Hare Hill, the route to Prestbury differed and it may have zig-zagged around the countryside too. From Chelford Road, it headed north and crossed a minor road before reaching the A538. After following that thoroughfare for a while, I was glad to leave it near Legh Hall to rejoin the North Cheshire Way for a short stretch for the road was not as friendly for walkers as I might have liked. At this point, I started to retrace steps taken on those hikes home from work as I passed both Woodend Farm and Spittle House to reach the River Bollin and the Bollin Valley Way. Both would be followed much of the way home.

St. Peter's Church Tower, Prestbury, Cheshire, England

My reaching Prestbury saw me potter away from the Bollin to visit its pleasant parish church and pass through its churchyard to reach another public footpath that would take me back towards the Bollin again. Macclesfield was not far away and I was well within surroundings where I have walked so often that there was no need to consult any map.

Longhorn Cattle in Riverside Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

Longhorn cattle are kept in the fields by the Bollin between Prestbury and Macclesfield every summer to keep the grass down in a more natural way. Cheshire East Council rangers might rather that dog walkers kept their pets on a leash during this time but there never is any sign of that.

Currently, there is a consultation on the use of Public Spaces Protection Orders to deal with those who do not control their dogs as well as they should or clean up after them. For the latter, something is badly needed but nothing takes any effect unless there is actual enforcement. Also, one wonders what effect it might have on those who leave their dogs run loose in Riverside Park for exercise. For one thing, it hardly seems appropriate for fields with cattle regardless of how docile they appear to be.

A flower bed in West Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

The final stretch of my way home took me somewhere that I have visited countless times and seeing flowers in West Park on a sunny evening like this possibly was the lure as it has been all those times and more have followed since then. Places like this are cathartic when life needs them and it is good to string a number of them together to make longer walks.

Travel Arrangements

Bus travel using service 130 between Macclesfield and Alderley Edge.

Not quite the reprise I once thought it was

Friday, September 29th, 2017

A thought recently struck me. There has been a fair amount of melancholy and reminiscence in what has appeared on here during this year. The events of the last few years and the resultant change of circumstances will have been part of this, so much so that I now am taking the time to take stock of things before anything else happens. After all, moving forward to happier prospects would bring happier tales for sharing too.

Depletion of energy reserves has not helped either and even causes me to reprise routes previously followed instead of exploring new ones. That brings its share of reminiscence and there is a bit of that here too, even though I am recalling a route that was varied rather than repeated.

The original hike took place at the end of January 2009 and it now feels like a very different time. After all, that was eight years ago and a lot has happened since then. There was a change of job, bereavements and subsequent inheritance as well as other things that have gone on in the world. It is all too easy to look back to a happier time when work was steady and ageing parents still retained their independence despite their advancing years. What really is needed is to create moments from which new happy memories can be gained.

The account of the more recent walk takes me back to May 2015 when so much was behind me and so much lay ahead of me. Usefully, work then offered a lull that allowed me to make use of a sunny day to revisit a trail that I fancied seeing again in brighter sunshine and with less wind about. The first would allow for the creation of satisfying photos while the second would make for easier walking.

Danethorn Hollow, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

My starting point was the currently closed Cat and Fiddle Inn. From there, my route took me along Whetstone Ridge before descending through Danethorn Hollow along the headwaters of Cumberland Brook. Clouds may have abounded but there was amble sunshine too as I followed a path first spied on a muddy walk in November 2004 that took me as far as Rushton Spencer via Three Shire Heads and the Dane Valley Way.

Cumberland Brook, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

Cumberland Cottage, Wildboarclough, Cheshire, England

The descent was steep as far as the track linking Clough House with the A54. As I was headed for the former, the descent continued and it passed woodland as I continued to shadow the brook before crossing it at a ford. When I reached the roadside, I decided against a shortcut along a public footpath that appeared to pass through a farmyard in preference to going around by road to reach another one that would get me going towards Shutlingsloe. That passed along the edge of woodland as it shadowed the road below while gaining some useful height.

Crag Hall as seen from Shutlingsloe, Cheshire, England

Eventually, I had to double back on myself for a while as more height was gained until a final turn led me directly to Shutlingsloe’s summit. Dappling of landscape by broken cloud cover was there to be witnessed as I continued my ascent. Care with timing meant that I could control how shaded my surroundings would appear in any photo so it was not as if I was going to lose completely the delights of sunlit landscape.

My route down from Shutlingsloe was a reverse of one followed only last week, albeit with some deviations that I cannot explain. The way down to Macclesfield Forest and the track through there was the same as was that along lanes as far as Forest Chapel. Following Charity Lane brought me to path through more of Macclesfield Forest. It was then that I first met the sign at a cross of four tracks that again met last week. Hacked Way Lane should have featured too but it was after that where I inexplicably turned to field crossings on various public footpaths instead of sticking with the track that ran between them. It is all the more curious given that I was headed for Tegg’s Nose.

Clough House and Shutlingsloe as seen from Tegg's Nose, Langley, Cheshire, England

Ridgegate Reservoir and High Moor, Langley, Cheshire, England

My route also went around another Clough House before picking up Sadler’s Way to reach the visitor centre for Tegg’s Nose Country Park. Sunshine still abounded though my memory would have me believe that everything has clouded over, such are the tricks that can be played on you. The way from Tegg’s Nose back home is one that I have taken that I hardly is worth mentioning. That also may explain how I have so little to say about it because other memories could take over even if it did.

All in all, the day was a satisfying one that produced a good collection of pleasing photos. Dan Kieran may have written in his book “The Idle Traveller” that he trusts the evolution of memories in his mind more than photos when recalling his travels. When your recollections are gap-filled like mine, then photos really come into their own when rebuilding something to recall afterwards. There are those who reckon that they may take from the overall experience but that is not how I feel, especially when looking at them again brings its share of satisfaction after the passage of time. Anything that fuels future happy reminisces has to be good.

Time

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

2017 has at occasions been plagued by the same anxiety: having enough time for dealing with the aftermath of life changing events from the last few years. It is not just the events in question that have given me pause for thought but the also the new responsibilities that are my lot after inheritance. The result is a period of reassessment away from my main work profession after a five week sabbatical did feel long enough for a fuller recuperation.

There also is a need to reflect on how life is going because bereavement can refocus one’s thinking. A busy working life and the presence of deadlines make it too easy to delay the process of grieving and it may be that I have done just that. The combination of keeping a day job going while legal work was ongoing certainly can fill anyone’s mind with a lot to do but the emotional toll remains inescapable. The motivations are different too because you can feel a need to patch up your emotional state to progress whatever needs doing when you just need to allow things to take their own course.

It is that time for emotional healing that I crave and I do not want to rush things in case that causes trouble later. This kind of healing is not something that can be achieved satisfactorily using holiday allocation alone because it is so tempting to fill that with fleeting distractions from everyday living. Over the last few years, it may be that I have tried doing that when slowing down and making more space for myself was in order.

Outdoor activities like walking and cycling help so I hope continue wandering through countryside because those strolls help wherever they are, be it Scandinavia or Scotland. There is something about what is called slow travel that allows the space and time to work through life’s cares and I have been reading Dan Kieran’s “The Idle Traveller”. Kieran observes that many punctuate a working life with short overseas escapes when what you need is deeper immersion where your thoughts can be followed to their own ends without any deadlines or timetables. It is a thought that resonates with me.

There is another side to this apart from slow travel because I am discovering that other quieter interludes are needed too, especially as the speed of everyday life makes it feel you are in an emotional slow lane. That might be telling me that a less intense working life is in order and a fulfilling one would be ideal. It is a thought that I will hold as I navigate a new stage of life’s great adventure.


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